Friday, August 31, 2012

The day to day in Panama

A praying mantis visits our vlog
In catching up on stories about Paris I've been leaving out details about Panama. Jenn and I have been doing a fun nightly Vlog that we're already excited to look back on. It's probably funniest for us. Now, how to explain Dolphin Bay, Bocas del Toro...

Me with a Kinkajou
A paradise to look at, with a great community feel. I have come in contact with more bugs and animals then ever before. I've gotten acquainted with a kinkajou, a possum, cicadas, dolphins, birds, snakes, fish, leaf bugs of all sorts, howler monkeys, sloths, ants galore, dogs and horses. Everyone that lives out here is a character with an amazing warm heart. Everyone looks out for each other here and together the cruisers and expats have made a welcoming Bay.

The view from the tree house
I usually wake up between 6-7am and enjoy a coffee as I look out onto the Bay. Jenn and I like to take in the view as we listen to the morning Net, a radio show that everyone in the area participates in. Sometimes we play a game of cribbage and are usually content just making fun of the trivia questions. We're the youngest house sitters in the area and the questions are usually about things 'before our time' and prefaced with "this is an easy one". (If it's so easy why do only two people ever participate with answers?) So sometimes we'll shout out ridiculous answers just for our own enjoyment.

Rana Azul "parking lot"
 The rest of the day is filled with house sitting duties (general clean up, walking the grounds, maintaining the solar batteries, feeding the dogs, paperwork for the worker) reading, writing, learning something new about sail boats, socializing and exploring the area. Every Wednesday there's a game of Mahjong but we've only been a couple times. Every Sunday the restaurant Rana Azul is open and it's a great way to see everyone in the area to catch up, enjoy some drinks and buy eggs. That's right, we buy our eggs when we go out to the restaurant from another patron who has hens. The weekly supply sells out pretty fast so we try to get there by noon.

Watching friends watch dolphins
We go into town to get our gas, propane, and food supply once a week. We use the propane for the stove and fridge. The gas is for the boat and generator. Our boat Cricket recently had some problems so we've been relying on the kindness of others to take us into town. We've had enough sun that we've only had to run the generator when we equalized the batteries for the solar energy.

The Treehouse
Jenn and I call this place the Treehouse. It's raised off the ground and level with the canopy of the surrounding trees. It's completely off the grid, running off solar power with a back up generator to use when needed. There are two huge water tanks that catch the rainwater that is collected from the large circular roof. We were happy to discover that if we're not catching sun, we're catching rain and always replenishing our basic needs. The washing machine runs off the solar energy and all the rain water is filltered first through a regular sieve to catch debris and then though a filter. Sometimes we put the rain water through another filter before drinking but we usually drink right from the tap.

A Troller (left) and a Panga (right)
The only way to get around here is by boat. There are no roads in the jungle and we're lucky to have a few well maintained foot paths. Jenn and I kayak around from time to time and love to visit the boats in our bay. That's right, only here 45 days and we're calling it "Our Bay". We've had a few cruiser dinners, pot lucks and juice bars where we've invited newcomers and returning boats up to the Treehouse so we can brush up on our sailing vernacular.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Normandy on a sunny day

Being yelled at to wake up to go on 
a spontaneous road trip, 
that's what friends are for!  

These are photos from that day in May I visited Normandy 
with Johno and Max.

DSCN3306DSCN3307nice place to watch the beachDSCN3310DSCN3311Good friends, good food, good times
making some shell artDSCN3326DSCN3327DSCN3330DSCN3334
DSCN3338someone painted the sceneJohnoJohno & Max

Normandy on a sunny day, a set on Flickr.
I had just gotten home from a long shift at the bar that ended at 6am and a late night out that brought me home with the sun a bit too bright. I had just gotten an hour of sleep when my phone woke me up and Johno was yelling that I needed to get out of bed and downstairs in 15 minutes. Max had his car and it was time to get the hell out of Paris, at least for a day. I slept in the car until it was time to take in the ocean view and famous hedges of Normandy. We didn't make it to all the places we wanted but we did get to spend a lot of time on the beach. We stopped and had delicious crapes and coffee at  Crêperie du Coin, villerville. If you're in Normandy, it's the place to eat!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Figures and the Teatre Museu Dali

The Dali Theatre-Museum is the largest surrealistic object in the world. I loved exploring the different floors, each more disjointed then the last. It's inspiring to be surrounded by art that seems to hold no inhibition. I've been wanting to visit this Museum every time I've visited Spain and it lived up to the expectation. Although, what can you really expect from a building that is half a pink castle with eggs on top?

This was my favorite excerpt from the guide map:
"A Warning! If we take into account the idiosyncrasy of Salvador Dali... then perhaps we we recommend you not to follow the preconceived route... It does not have, not does it wish to have, any systematic function nor chronological sense."
Here's a short clip showing some of the jumble that the museum holds:

My favorite section was a room playing with reflection. Paintings seemed a blur until looked at in the reflective sphere placed on top of a painting, forming a perfect image that wrapped itself around a 3D surface.  If you want to see Dali's more then just weeping clocks art, stop in. If you're in Spain near Barcelona, its a quick day trip by train (see Renfe approx. 10-15€ each way). See where this place is on a map. I'm sure you'll be highly entertained by this ostentatious expression of art.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My view today

The view from here is ever clear
the sky and clouds abound
a looking glass makes the bay surface
to mirror water's other form
my heart gets torn to choose the best
the reflecting or reflected
my eyes cannot hide, there's no way to decide
all nature is beauty perfected

Rejecting the form, no room for social norm
in open sea and vast land
the tree's grow wild, my mind beguiled
stray feathers find my hand
Each day that I wake, a dream I forsake
to live in a natural way
No one to impress, no one to caress
a very small price to pay

As green grows lush, home holds no rush
my feet feel best on the ground
The open air dismisses my care
no shoes or city to bound
The jungle calls, rain pounds and falls
commotion becomes peace
the terrace I walk, to birds I talk
I feel a great release

A Literary Paris

Reading this book while in Paris put some novel romance and history into the places I was walking around. I got a glimpse of Paris through writers spanning different centuries. This beautifully put together book opened my eyes to places I wouldn't have otherwise visited. Like the Chapel St. Germain located at the Saint-Germain-des-Pres Metro station, line 4.

The famous cafes Lipp, Magot, and Flore occupy the nearby corners on the popular Rue St. Germain. Those cafes are noted to be frequented by Fizgerald, Hemingway, Joyce, and so many more! They are expensive places to dine and the decor matches the menu. I enjoyed Lipp and decided it was a fun place to splurge on a desert as a meal.

If you're headed to Paris or have just been and miss it's charm this is a nice book to romanticize the streets while picking up some facts. I didn't always love Paris but this book helped me see it through the eyes of very different and talented writers. This book transforms 'Tourist Paris' and gives her streets that "Je ne sais quoi"...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Where to eat in Paris... being budget minded of course

I was recently asked:
Hey there you happy traveller .. can you provide some recommendations on where to eat in Paris... being budget minded of course :)
IN PARIS there's no shortage of delicious cuisine to salivate over, remember and want to talk about months later. Almost everything is drenched in butter. Dinner can take hours to savor with a seemingly bottomless bottle of wine. Where to eat on a budget though? I'd have to say "look around the corner" Paris is like a labyrinth. You can wander her winding streets forever so I've marked some of my favorite finds below using interactive google maps.

When going to the Notre Dame be mindful that there are two lines, one for the front entrance and one on the side to go up to the top. During tourist season the line to the top can be a 1-2 hour wait. I felt it was worth it when my company in line was my good friend Jenn and we needed to plan our trip to Panama. It's a good oportunity to read guidebooks and make plans for your next days or chat with your neighbours in line. It's nice to be with another person so you're able to make a run to a nearby snack food store (Click on map below to see store and legend).

View Paris - Notre-Dame day in a larger map  

What's on this Fabulous Map I've made for you:
Three main attractions: Louvre, Notre-Dame and Pompidou center. Accompanying them are great places to eat, even on a budget, to satisfy your in-between sightseeing needs.

Notre-Dame 'to the top' line
This is the line to get to the top of the Notre-Dame. Do this when you have energy, NOT at the end of the day when you're tired. You have to climb up all the steps.

Snack food Store
A place to get cheaper snacks while you're waiting in line at the Notre-Dame. Worth the walk around the corner. Right in front of the line you'll be tempted to buy a 5€ Orngina or bottled coke but around the corner I spent 7€ on two freezies, two apples, two lollypops and a drink that lasted longer then the line.

One entrance to the Muse de Louvre, I love when this is the first view people get of the pyramids. Walking under the detailed marble archways then having the glass pyramids at the end makes for a wonderful 'aw' moment.

Tea by The
A cute little place to have a nice cup of tea and tiny snack before you hit the Louvre or after when you need a boost.

DELYAN restaurant
This is a great little place for lunch. They have awesome salads, and a meal for every budget. They make tasty iced tea and have a tarrece on a street that's so small it's not even on google street view. On nice days I would get my lunch and eat it at the park. You can look at trees and have birds chirping even though you're in the middle of the city.

Eat a packed lunch
This is Parc de la Tour Saint-Jacques. It's a nice little park where you can lay on the grass and enjoy a packed lunch. Have a cat nap if you're feeling tired.

Grocery Store
If you're willing to walk up a bit from the park most grocery stores have a myriad of prepared foods that are sure to help you stay within a budget. The main grocery stores are:

Centre Georges Pompidou
Costs 3€ to get to the top where you can enjoy the view. You can have a very expensive coffee or a meal or just hang around and enjoy the gift shop books. If you're running out of time or gumption it's nice to just got to the top even if you don't have time to look at the museum of modern art. There are escalators so you can save it for when you're tired.

Pain Vin Fromages
A place to break the bank (save 40-80€ for two to really splurge here) and enjoy that you're in Paris. You can order a plate of cheese by region with honey and nuts. Its a great place to stuff yourself with bread, wine and cheese. There are other things on the menu for every appetite. Call ahead if you can to make sure you get a table or just stop in, ask for a table and wander the streets or admire the pompidou until your time.

A Guarantee
This place is open when other restaurants are not. It's easy to find if it starts to pour rain as it's on a main street. It's more expensive, you'll see service at its most cliche but you'll get good food. A rule of thumb, Croque monsieur (fancy version of grilled cheese with ham) is usually the cheapest thing on ever menu and usually comes with a salad.

There are a lot of these tourist ready restaurants. The rule is medium filled restaurants are best. I've been taught by Parisians that you don't go in if it's full, don't go in if it's empty, get a vibe and a feeling then take a look at the menu and the specials.

If you have a microwave available to you and all that's on the brain is sleep, not finding food, then hit up a Picard early on for some healthy frozen meals. Once you know what to look for they're in most arrondissements. Check here: for locations. It's not a bad idea to stock up if you have access to a freezer and want to save money for other things.

There are also a lot of places to get a sandwich and fast food for only a couple euro. It might not be as satisfying to eat there unless following a crazy night out. Kebab places have awesome crepes though. Ranging from 3-5€ you can pick between savory and sweet. I'd recommend eating these close to the end of your trip because they're highly addictive.

Keep your eye out for small bakeries or boulangeries. You might think they only have pastries but they are usually the best place to stop for a quick tasty lunch. Small independent places with their own charm and specialties. Make it your mission to try all the mille feuilles or lemon meringue tarts and you wont be disappointed. These places also have their own mini sandwiches or pre-made salads that are only made to last that day, so supplies are low. It can be worth it to wait in line, it can mean it's a popular place.

Make sure you say: "Bonjour" and "Merci" and if you really want to practice French a "esque je peux prendre" & "s'il vous plait" is always very appreciated before ordering or pointing. Listen to the sentence here. You can even play it from your smartphone just before you order!

Hope you have a wonderful trip Kat! Can't wait to hear all about it!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Game of Thrones, A Song of Ice & Fire By G. Martin

I'm glad these fit on my kobo!
I finally finished the last page of the epilogue on the this epic tale that spans five large novels. Most are familiar with the HBO series that has inspired even more of a following. Told from many different narratives this book series is one that is know for its deaths. "Everyone dies" I was told and from just the first few chapters you know it will be a long eventful game to claim the throne. Everyone is true to their character and the author does a great job of throwing you around into the minds of all the personalities constantly surprising and shifting your point of view and greying that fine line of right and wrong. Characters you love and characters you love to hate rise and fall in power with honor and deceit as their true weapons, drawing blood and loyalties from all corners. I've been told I'm a 'loud reader' meaning I 'oooh', 'ah', shout, gasp and laugh. There was no end of that through all these pages penned by George R.R. Martin.

I vividly remember laughing that "No, I wasn't going to read the book" I didn't have the time, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings had satisfied my appetite for dragons and battling. "If I get an e-reader it will be the first book I read" I said as an offhand comment. To my surprise I was gifted a Kobo before my trip and to hold true to my word I bought the series right away. I read while walking through Spain. Reading about a fantastical story that takes place in castles and on jousting fields while passing by old bridges and castles where real Knights had pledged their protection to the very Camino I was walking. Even passing a field of grass that was know for its jousting tournaments, the story quickly became very alive in my mind. It's a story you want to talk about.

Spoof cover, what is really should be called
If it's been a while since you've picked up a good book, if you've always wanted to be a Knight, a tomboy princess or live with dragons, the clever characters in this world wont disappoint. If you couldn't handle the deaths in Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings then this might be a series to skip. Heed the warning of the mock cover to the left: Don't get too attached!

Happy reading and if you happen to have any titles of the books listed here I'm looking for the ebook copy or someone to read alongside with.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Panama Vlog

Since being here in Panama my friend Jenn and I decided it would be a good keepsake to take a quick video detailing the highlights and oddities of our days here in Panama. Neither of us have experienced life in the jungle before and want to remember each day! It's been a fun 23 days of vlogging so far. There's footage of howler monkeys, dolphins and our interactions with some BIG bugs.

I've just added a button in the right hand column for easy access to our daily banter. Hope you enjoy our channel:

Saturday, August 4, 2012